Practitioners, Staff

Welcoming our new student midwife, Batya!

The cycle of midwifery continues at Thrive. Come the first week of February, we are honored and excited to welcome Batya Friedland into the Thrive family as one of our apprentice midwives. We’ve been smitten with Batya since meeting her and reading her beautiful website (which we encourage you to check out).  Batya is a world traveler, scholar, Rabbi, Buddhist Chaplain, dancer and poet. Our center coordinator Kelly was able to ask Batya a few questions about what gets her going, her visions of life and midwifery care, and what she does to make herself smile. Enjoy!

Kelly: Tell me about the moment you knew you were going to be a midwife?
Batya: 3 1/2 years ago I was in a very challenging point in my life. I had gone so far into the void of experience that I could not feel the meaning of my life. From that place, I received a vision of myself catching a baby. I didn’t even know the phrase ‘catching a baby’. I had never experienced anything like it, and the potency of it was so strong that I knew that is what I am here to do. Without having been to a birth, I enrolled in midwifery school 5 months later.

Kelly: What do you think makes a good midwife and who are the people you have looked up to?
Batya: I believe a midwife is someone who genuinely loves other people, and naturally cares about their well being. Midwives have all different personalities, but beneath the personality we are a beautiful gathering of gatekeepers; a welcome committee of high . A midwife is a witness, and attends to what is needed for the sake of health, happiness, and love. Though a midwife must have excellent self-care, the role itself is to benefit others and truly be of service. Midwives that have impacted my life are Selena Green, Ina May Gaskin, Elizabeth Davis, Terri Nash, and Angelina Martinez Miranda.

Kelly: If you could change one thing about maternity care in the US what would it be?
Batya: The cesarean rate is an emergency for the birth world and humanity. 1/3 births currently in the US are cesarean, and depending on which statistics you consider, only 12% of those are truly medically needed. This is what I would change.

Kelly: Our clients are always excited to know additional skills that our students and staff midwives have. Tell us about your skills outside of attending births?
Batya: I am a rabbi and buddhist chaplain, and am also an energy healing practitioner. I speak Spanish, Mandarin, Hebrew and Thai, and also offer placenta preparation and birth related ceremony. I also bring the skill of humor!

Kelly: Tell me how you make yourself happy when you are not at a birth.
Batya: I’m singing! I’m drumming! I’m communing with the ocean, I’m hiking. I’m playing the shruti box, my ukulele, writing poetry, and leading meditation retreats. I’m involved in a ritual somewhere. And overall loving my life.unnamed


An Interview with an Apprentice Midwife

At the end of the year, having student midwives at Thrive is bittersweet. They’ve caught babies, they’ve smiled into mamas eyes, they’ve held the hands of partners, they’ve cleaned a few birth rooms. They are trusted team players who are leaving the center to support other communities. Typically, student midwives are new to midwifery. However, this last year, we could not have been luckier to practice along side a student midwife with fifteen years of experience. How can this be, you might ask? You’ll have to read the interview with Serena Russel. Serena, we are sad to see you go, we thank you for your insights and hard work, and we wish you well in building your practice in Grass Valley and Nevada City! You can see Serena’s beautiful website here and please feel free to leave her a note in the comment section. We know she touched many people’s hearts as their families were born.




Kelly:  Tell me about the moment that you absolutely knew you were meant to be a midwife?
Serena: It started out with my ravenous hunger for knowledge and information on natural and normal birth when I became pregnant with my daughter at 18. Once I had her at home, with the guidance of my amazing midwives who continually and unwaveringly trusted and supported me, that knowledge became power and I felt compelled to share and inspire other women with this knowledge. This led me to midwifery.

Kelly: Tell me about your path to becoming a licensed midwife?
Serena: This is a long and winding one! Once I decided midwifery was my path (right after my daughter was born in 93), I started with self study and then attended a midwifery intensive for 3 months. This was in 94/95 before CA had licensing available for midwives, meaning it was a renegade path. The midwife who taught the class was very outspoken and she inspired me to always stay committed to my goal of supporting women. I apprenticed in a home birth setting for a few years. My mentor was trained by a granny midwife in Tennessee and passed on the deep trust and wisdom that comes with knowing your stuff and knowing when to use it~ and when not to use it! I started catching babies for friends in 99, but ultimately decided that I could use some high volume experience. I went to Jamaica to volunteer and train at a high volume birth center run by the well known midwifery mama, Shari Danials. I spent 6 weeks there and came home after 40 births and a plethora of clinicals. Slowly, I started my small practice with the idea that licensing, with all the protocols and requirements, would ultimately hold me back from my ability to truly work for my clients. I practiced for years this way, balancing single motherhood with midwifery, all the while knowing that one wrong step and I could go to jail for a felony. I kept diligent paperwork, wrote informed consents, attended peer review and followed local peer protocol. This was exhausting and it kept my practice very small. In 2013 the midwifery law went up for review and in January 2014 many aspects of it changed. Most importantly,  the concept of a woman’s right to self determination changed. For me, this meant I was no longer covered by my diligent claims of being unlicensed. So, I decided it was time to join the licensed model and through that decision realized it would also offer me an ability to be available to more types of women and families.
I enrolled in NMI and realized that after almost 15 years of primary practice, I had very little documentation I could use to prove my skills. This led me to the frustrating awareness that I would need to apprentice… again. Thats when I found out that Thrive Birth Center was looking for apprentices. Knowing the ladies from peer review, I emailed them and communicated my situation and found them to be surprisingly receptive. I arranged to start in an advanced student role in march 2015. Having been primarily home birth trained and experienced, I found the birth center to be a bit confusing at first. Electronic charting, digital b/p cuffs and an entirely different client load than I was used to was slightly intimidating but Jasmine and Caitlin were patient and friendly and took the time to explain everything. The other student showed me the ropes and quickly my insecurity shifted as I felt very much a part of the team. The collegial nature of my experience at Thrive brought perspective into my own ways of practice and expanded my ability to midwife all types of women in a comfortable and gentle manner.

Kelly: Wow, you really went from student midwife to experienced midwife back to the student roll again. What was the most challenging aspect of being an apprentice?

Serena: I think being on-call all the time while juggling the need to take care of my other responsibilities, like paying bills, making money and household tasks, was the most challenging piece of apprenticing as a midwife. It’s a lot of work and selfless service, and yet its also very rewarding.

Kelly: What was the most rewarding aspect of apprenticeship?
Serena: I loved that every single new mom and baby that comes into this world is gently and well cared for by their providers at Thrive. Also, working with the amazing midwives at the center, not to mention the work we brought to more traditional home settings.

Kelly: Now that your apprenticeship is complete, how do you plan on bringing these skills back into your communities?
Serena: After so many years coming, I feel really great about entering into this new phase of being a licensed midwife. I’ve just relocated to Grass Valley and am really excited to offer midwifery care to home birth mamas in the community. I love the water birth model at Thrive and I am purchasing a birth tub to include in my practice. I’d also like to create educational opportunities for families about the safety of home birth, VBAC, and healthy lifestyles for preconception. In addition, I plan on offering Holistic well woman care, and in- home-fertility support including IUI.

Holistic Childbirth Prep Workshop, Staff, Thrive Birth Talk

Storytelling For Birth, Family, and Community

In our home, stories have a special place in our daily and seasonal rituals. As we gather nightly for dinner, we go around the table, first sharing what we are grateful for and then sharing the stories of our day. We might talk about a moment of tension, a friendship forged, a duck family spotted. After dinner and dishes, we retire to the couch for story time. My partner might tell a classic from memory, or I might retell a traditional folktale while he plays the guitar and my daughter contributes sound effects.

Stories weave our lives together by giving us an opportunity to share our vulnerabilities and accomplishments. We feel heard and supported when we might have felt alone or isolated before sharing. As listeners, we sit in silence, absorbing the ebbs and flows of a narrative taking shape.

Stories also serve to give us a place in our family’s history, as well as our larger community and culture. As Autumn darkens our days and we hang our holiday lights, we gather to tell stories of our ancestors, friends, or family members that have passed. We speak their names to honor their place in our history. For my daughter’s birthday, I open the day by telling her the story of her birth. This is a complex story and every year I carefully build in more of the nuances. It is not lost on me that her birth was shaped by, while simultaneously standing in contrast to, the media’s representation of birth and a woman’s body. It’s important to me that her first experience of birth takes root between her and I, connecting us, like an invisible umbilical cord.

I believe that our stories can take seed in our beings. We hold them tenderly in our bones and body, sometimes dearly, and sometimes in angst. Over the two days in which my labor unfolded, I became deeply connected to all the reproductive experiences and narratives that were shaping my daughter’s birth and my birth as a mother. My reproductive experiences will, no doubt, affect my daughter’s reproductive experiences. The reproductive experiences that we have lived as women affect our births at a multigenerational level. One of the ways that we can positively harness our past and future is to become mindful storytellers, because telling our stories is an act of honoring our transformations.

At Thrive, we have ongoing classes and events that honor the art and power of Story. I teach our Holistic Childbirth Education Workshop, where you will hear the story of the Hormones of Love and the Landscape of Labor. On December 5th, we’ll be throwing a storytelling gala for professionals and families, Stories From the Birth Room. We’ll be joined by doctors, midwives, and other professionals who will share their own stories, some sorrowful, some hilarious, all victorious in the act of transformation. In January, our beloved yoga teacher Sara Woll will lead mamas in finding balance between fear and bliss in her Truth Telling Circle. You can also join Sara in her Prenatal Yoga and Community Tea Time class, or Lyla Moore’s Prenatal and Postpartum yoga classes, where pregnant people and new mothers gather to expand and deepen connection.

If you have a story to share, please let us know. We appreciate the wisdom we gain as we sit to listen to you.

Warmly, Kelly Gray, Center Coordinator, Kelly@ThriveBirth.com


Practitioners, Staff, Thrive Birth Center Blog

Meet The Midwife, an Interview with Bee Lauher


Brandi Lauher is a Licensed Midwife in California and a CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). She has been working with mothers and their families for 17 years. She is an internationally educated and home birth apprentice trained midwife. She has traveled to Mexico, Vanuatu, Costa Rica, Uganda, South Africa and Indonesia to explore, educate, serve and volunteer as a midwife and educator. Brandi is passionate about natural birth, cultural diversity, mother/baby bonding and international midwifery. She has also been trained as an EMT ( Emergency Medical Technician). Bee is one of the midwives at Thrive so we sat down to talk to Bee about her calling into midwifery, hospital versus birth centers and home birth, the affect of media on birth culture and more.


How did you become a midwife?

My calling to midwifery began in 1997 in Taos, New Mexico. I went to my fist birth in August of that year and was amazed at the incredible ability of a woman’s body. Powerful, raw, emotional passionate and unbelievably strong. Midwifery and birth drew me in. I went to births for years as a doula, supporting mama’s through their labor until I finally gained the courage to dive into my formal midwifery training. After that, it has been a non stop journey of gestation, transformation and birth!

What are the major differences between birthing in a hospital or birth center?

I have had the privilege to deliver babies in a variety of settings and countries. I have experienced birth in  the most rural of setting with no water or electricity, to the most high tech hospitals. The biggest difference that I have witnessed in the amount of constant distraction and interruption in the hospital setting. There are so many people coming in and out of the birthing room, interrupting the laboring woman during contractions and disrupting her natural and normal progression of labor. It’s pretty amazing that  it takes only 2 midwives at Thrive to accomplish the same task that is takes 6-8 providers to do in a hospital. Birth Center Midwives are trained in all aspects of primary care from conception through the postpartum period and beyond.

What advice do you have for a first time mom trying to decide where to birth?

I tell all the women and families that interview me or have questions about where to birth, that by far, the safest place for a woman to give birth is where she feels the safest and most comfortable. You have to trust your intuition on this one.

Who are your mentors in the birth world and what did you learn from them?

I have learned from each and every midwife that I have every done a birth with. Some of my best, most profound lessons have been in foreign countries in cultures where we don’t speak even close to the same language. In these birth rooms, I have witnessed and watched the way the mysterious magic of birth happens regardless of race, religion, color or any other difference we may have. Birth is a human right in it’s most raw form!

A midwife that I have looked up to and admired is Jennie Joseph. She has worked for years making midwifery care accessible to women from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and believes every woman has the right to have a midwife at her birth.

If you could change one thing about birth culture, what would it be?

I would love to change the way social media and television have portrayed birth to be. It has become a scary, fearful, painful thing that women dread to do. Women have been set up to fail in the main stream medical model of care.

I would love to see more healthy, empowering birth stories being promoted and shared.

What are the major misconceptions that you hear about midwives and how do you address them?

I have been working as a home birth midwife for the last 1o years before coming to work at Thrive. I think the least understood aspect of home birth is that the midwives who offer that service are highly skilled and medically trained primary care providers. We offer all the same testing and birth options that a hospital does, minus pain medication, while providing complete continuity of care.